A remarkable set of circumstances led to Andries Noppert keeping a clean sheet in a World Cup fixture on Monday.
18 months ago the 28-year-old didn’t have a club having been released by FC Dordrecht and he considered quitting football to pursue a career in the police force.
However, in the summer of 2021 he was given a lifeline by Go Ahead Eagles who signed him after securing promotion to the Eredivisie.
This summer past, he returned to his hometown club of Heerenveen, eight years after he first left them without making senior appearance.
That alone would have been fairytale ending for a man who almost abandoned the sport altogether but this season he’s entered dreamland.
A dream come true
Impressive performances in the Dutch top flight evidently caught the eye of Louis van Gaal at a time when the Oranje head coach was unconvinced by his goalkeeping options ahead of this winter’s showcase tournament in Qatar.
Many were surprised when the experienced Jasper Cillessen was left out of the squad completely and Freiburg’s Mark Flekken was also something of a shock omission given his performances in the Bundesliga recently.
The three keepers chosen were 39-year-old Remko Pasveer, Feyenoord’s Justin Bijlow, and the police officer that never was, Noppert.
As if making the squad wasn’t enough, he was then selected to start Netherlands’ opening game (and toughest on paper) against Senegal, – not many players make their international debut on the biggest stage of them all.
This was also something of a surprise given the squad numbers – Pasveer was assigned No1 and Bijlow was given No13 while Noppert took No23, suggesting he would be third choice.
Noppert has a World Cup clean sheet under his beltCredit: getty
As we know, Van Gaal delights in some eccentricities and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the 71-year-old tactician felt Noppert’s heartwarming arc could offer some intangible benefit to his side’s fortunes.
This unusual sequence of events has presented Dream Team World Cup managers with an opportunity.
Given that he was expected to be a back-up to the understudy, Noppert is priced at just £2m.
That suddenly looks extremely generous with Netherlands still to play Ecuador and Qatar having already kept a clean sheet against the champions of Africa.
Van Gaal’s decision was justified against Senegal
The one caveat is that it’s certainly not beyond Van Gaal to rotate his keepers – in fact it’s just the sort of thing he’d do but you’d think he would recognise the value in sticking by a winning formula.
Considering that Noppert is half the price of Emi Martinez, the most-popular keeper in the game, and he incurred minus one point in his first outing at the hands of Saudi Arabia, plenty of gaffers will surely be tempted to make the switch.